After more than a few hours of aimlessly looking around, we finally found Richard Parker’s house. Finally the man who owed money had a name thanks to a reserve address lookup. Damian knew him simply as Park and considering the type of business deal the two were involved in, I probably wouldn’t have used my full name either. It was a little white house, the second from an intersection in an older neighborhood. The house was old, but it was in good condition. It badly needed a new roof but I would have gladly shacked up in the place any day. Being a homeless drifter, I had checked out my fair share of houses in hopes that one day I would wake up and it would be mine and life on the streets was nothing more than a distant nightmare. So much for that.
“You knock,” Connor ordered, “I’ll be right behind you with my gun in hand for when he opens the door.”
I knocked. And I knocked. And I knocked. And I knocked again. Richard Parker wasn’t home despite that both his vehicles were in the yard and through the basement window we could clearly see a light on. I rang the doorbell but nothing happened. I then saw that the wire connecting the bell to the rest of the house had been cut.
“You’re going to break in?”
It was more of a comment than a question.
Connor and I both went into the backyard of Richard Parker’s house and busted down the door. Just a few forceful kicks and the thing swung open. By the looks of the fruit on the counter it appeared that there hadn’t been anyone in the house for quite some time. There were no signs of life on the main floor so we went down to the basement in hopes of finding something. In the basement living room the TV was still on but the rabbit ears looked like they had been violently thrown to the ground. As we examined the place the signs of a struggle were apparent. Something had gone on down there and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the details.
“A deal gone bad?” I asked Connor.
“I don’t know man,” his voice was just a soft whisper, “but help me look around in case we can find at least part of the money he owes my uncle Damian.”
“By the looks of the place I don’t think we’ll find money here. This place looks like a crime scene.”
“Or at least let’s get back the guns he got from my uncle. Last month he requested an exorbitant amount of fully automatic rifles and ammunition for them.”
“And where does your uncle get his weapons?”
“Oh he’s got his connections from his time back in the slammer.”
I looked around in a small bedroom on the west side of the house while Connor checked out the other one next to the bathroom. I found nothing but blue cloths neatly vacuum packed into clear plastic bags in the closet and an industrial supply of stash cans. Most of them were empty but a few contained multiple sets of safety deposit box keys and 8mm tapes. I figured that they might have been porn shows but then again, I wasn’t really interested in knowing.
“Connor?” I called out, but there was no answer.
I walked out of the room and went looking for Connor. I found him across the hall standing in the doorway of the bedroom on the east side of the house seemingly frozen in time.
“Connor!” I shouted in frustration.
“Ana,” his voice was barely audible.
“What the hell do you see in there?” I demanded as I walked towards him.
He obstructed my view of what was inside the room but from just a few steps behind him I could clearly see a colossal blood splat on the bedroom wall. That would have explained why Damian hadn’t been able to reach Park for the past couple of days and the signs of a struggle in the living room.
“C’mon!” I urged Connor as I pulled him by the arm, “There’s nothing for us here.”
There was nothing but dead silence for most of the ride back to Whitehaven. Connor seemed overly nervous and that was highly unlike him. The thought of a predator looming around seemed to have got to him on a level far more profound than he was willing to admit to himself.
“Do you think,” I began, “that the man who did that to Richard Parker is the man your uncle owes money to?”
“I wouldn’t think so, they’ve been on good business terms for a long time,” Connor’s voice was shaky, “but then again, how the hell would I know anything? I’m just the delivery boy.”
Back at the apartment Damian greeted us with a big smile on his face. He was smiling even before I handed him the pillowcase full of stolen things. He seemed awfully joyous about something, unlike the two of us who were horrified.
“Guess who made it to the regional news at noon!” Damian exclaimed.
We waited for him to continue.
“Two teens are the suspects of a rash of break and enters near the New York-New Jersey border! At this point they only said that they believe that at least one of the suspects is female. They rambled on saying that the two were of small build, and were wearing dark clothes.”
I looked over at Connor and grinned at him but he wasn’t smiling.
“Could be anybody,” I smirked, “but we all know who it is!”
“Now what’s the problem?” Damian belligerently asked Connor, noticing the mediocre expression on his face.
The two of us then proceeded to tell him what we had seen in Richard Parker’s house.
“So you found him brutally murdered in his basement bedroom?” Damian questioned.
“Connor did,” I replied in a low voice, “he didn’t let me go in.”
Damian looked at Connor for further explanation.
“Only one of his arms was sticking out from under the sheets,” Connor’s voice was even lower than mine, “but all the sheets were soaked in blood and there were multiple splats on the wall and the floor. So the sheets were put over him after the job was done by the looks of it.”
“There were no signs of forced entry upstairs,” I continued, “but there were obvious signs of a struggle in the basement.”
“So it seems like the two were known to each other,” Damian observed.
“That’s what I’ve been thinking too,” I whispered back, “and there’s a sick part of me that thinks it’s your man who wants his half a million dollars.”
Damian contemplated the situation for a few minutes but he didn’t seem convinced.
“I don’t think it’s my guy,” he went on, “he’d clean up his messes if it was him.”
“Yeah,” I retorted, “the person who did that didn’t do a very good job at covering up.”
“And while you two were out I made a few phone calls and I didn’t find your man Greg but I did find some other connections that I’ll work on checking out.”
“Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
I flashed Damian a quick smile to say thank you before going to sit with a rather distraught Connor in the living room.
“You look awful bro,” I muttered as I flopped down on the couch next to him, “I would have taught that you’d been exposed to this kind of stuff before.”
“I have,” he replied apprehensively, “but not like that! None of my uncle’s longtime business partners were brutally murdered in cold blood like that. That’s what gets me on edge.”
“Yeah, I can understand that.”
“This business ain’t like it is in the movies. You don’t just randomly kill someone over a deal gone bad for no reason. You’ve gotta know what you’re doing and how to go about it. There’s a new player in town.”
“I’ve gotta talk about something with your uncle, but you hang in there buddy, Damian knows what he’s doing.”
I left the room and went to find Damian in his bedroom. He had a bunch of papers scattered all over the bed and he seemed to be searching for a particular piece of information.
“Do you think that Dwayne Jackson did this?” I asked him as I stood in the doorway.
“Why would be do that?” Damian raised an eyebrow at me.
“He left a similar mess behind when he murdered my brother.”
“But that was at an abandoned factory. This is in a heavily populated residential neighborhood!”
“Does it make a difference? He just killed my brother for no good reason and he seems to be at it again. Richard Parker didn’t even have a single weapon in his house!”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“We’re going to blackmail him and see what he does.”
Damian was still puzzled but he accepted my offer. Nobody had a better idea so we started brainstorming how we’d blackmail the murderous city councillor. I told Damian that we should start by using the Richard Parker crime scene against him, just to see what he’d do in response while some of Damian’s associates would be monitoring him. If we got the reaction we wanted, we’d move on to blackmailing him with the murder of my brother Jeff and finally we’d kill him, but not before he gave us a huge sum of money.
“Do you have records of the guns you sold to Richard Parker?” I asked Damian as I was cooking something up to frame Dwayne Jackson.
“Of course,” he replied still searching for something, “the records are written in codes so the popo can’t match them to the actual weapon, but I’ll write them in plain English for you if you think you’ve got a lead.”
“I reckon that you know which guns are yours, so if you can find out if Dwayne and the criminals who work for him have them, well that will be a bonus for us.”
“Not a lot of people work for me, but if you and Connor keep bringing in the extra money I’ll be able to pay some people do keep tabs on them.”
And that was that. We had a plan and Damian was about to execute it. It wasn’t long before Connor got over the fright that Park’s body had put into him and he cooperated nicely. He had some excellent ideas that we all put to good use in our progressive blackmail scheme. We were set to laugh our blackmail assault the day Damian was to meet up with the other man to give him a portion of the money he owed him.
“Are you ready for this?” Damian seemed worried about me, “This is no petty theft or hiding under beds during home invasions. There might as well be murder involved here.”
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life.” I boldly replied.
I went about my business undistracted on Jeff’s anniversary. I felt more sure than anything about my vengeance at the end of the line so I did everything in my power to make everything go smoothly until then. I knew without a single doubt in my mind that Jeff would have done the same for me. He had given his life to save mine, the least I owed him was to see justice through and we all knew that that meant taking matters into my own hands. I was more than ready and willing. The afternoon before Damian was set to meet up with the man whom he owed money to, we mailed out our first piece of blackmail to Dwayne Jackson so he would be receiving it at his office the following morning. Damian had hired two men to keep tabs on him and a couple more to investigate and dig up some dirt on his associates.
But we got nothing out of it. Dwayne Jackson wasn’t about to budge. If it was really him who had done that, he wasn’t about to give up his secrets. Over the weeks Damian had managed to pay back all the money he owed without any problems. We saw Richard Parker’s gruesome murder on the six o’clock news for a week straight but the police didn’t have any leads on who might have done it or why. The man hadn’t been known to police and no illegal substances or weapons had been found in his house. The rash of brazen break and enters had only escalated with a bunch of copycats going at it at the same time we were. Belligerence was still rampant in the Welker household and I was becoming impatient because the incomplete job had been dragging on for too long.
“Damian, help me lure Dwayne Jackson,” I spoke apprehensively, “and I’ll kill him because I’m seriously getting sick and tired of waiting.”
“Patience my dear,” he wasn’t completely belligerent with me, “I promised you that I’d take care of it for you.”
“A promise, is that all it’ll ever be?”
“I told you that I would do it! Learn to take my word for an answer!”
“On Tuesday evening, drive me to Cobalt. I’ll make sure the bastard is waiting for me.”
“No way in hell! That’s way too dangerous.”
“Fine, then I’ll do it myself.”
Damian didn’t seem to take me seriously. To him it seemed like I had never been serious about Dwayne Jackson. To him it looked like I had only wanted to put on a show and prove something to myself. But I wasn’t kidding myself, I was going to accomplish what I had set out to do. On Tuesday morning I took public transit down to Washington Heights and visited City Hall in person. I asked the lady at the front desk to squeeze me into an emergency meeting with Dwayne Jackson but she repeatedly refused. Eventually I just kicked her desk and walked outside into the back parking lot and waited for Dwayne Jackson there. After about an hour of being agitated and restless, I finally just found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote him instructions to bring me a hundred thousand dollars in a duffel bag right after the sun went down and the rest of the instructions in a charade poem.
In the distance there is a factory
From across the Hudson you can see it clearly
I know what you did down there
And what you’ve been up to elsewhere
You can try to run and hide
But on you I’ve got my eye
Meet me down there and be alone
I’ll also be unarmed and on my own
I only want a hundred thousand dollars, no harm done
And I’ll keep your secret safe from everyone
Meet me under the canopy by the riverside
I’ll be waiting for you inside
I left it tucked underneath the wiper of his SUV and went back to Whitehaven with nothing to show. Damian was somewhat surprised to see me again as I wasn’t covered in blood and I wasn’t in cuffs because I had murdered someone at City Hall. That seemed to reinforce his theory that I wasn’t serious about getting the job done, however.
“Get me a paddleboat Damian,” I demanded when I returned to the apartment.
“For what?” he seemed to find it funny, “What are you gonna do with a dinky boat?”
“I need to get across the Hudson tonight.”
“Well take public transit for God’s sake! Isn’t that what you took this morning?!”
“Nobody can see me.”
“And you just expect that paddling to the other side of the river will make that a reality for you?”
“I don’t give a hoot about what you think Damian! Just get me the boat!”
“I’ll get you the boat but for my sake and yours, after what you want to do is done, don’t show your face back here.”
“If I die tomorrow, promise me that you’ll get the job done in memory of me.”
It made no difference to me. I wanted the job done and whatever came next came next, that’s all. Damian sent Connor to get me the boat and when he came back I took it myself down to the river. I had packed a bag with two handguns, a machete and a bowie knife to bring with me to the meeting. In the poem I had written that I was going to be unarmed but that definitely wasn’t going to be the case. I knew that Dwayne Jackson wasn’t stupid enough to come alone either so I wanted to be prepared just in case I lost or dropped a weapon or one was taken from me during an altercation. Whatever the scenario, I wanted to get the job done no matter what the cost.
It’s now or never.
Once across the Hudson River after a very successful paddleboat ride, I got everything set up. I hid the boat in the vegetation near the river for the rare chance that I could get away and climbed up the bank to the factory lot. I knew that there was a hollow metal post in there near the back that was partially broken that was also big enough for me to fit in. That’s where I was going to hide while I waited for Dwayne Jackson. I didn’t expect him to come alone, and I certainly didn’t expect him to bring money. I didn’t expect him to show up at all, honestly. He really had no reason to show up if he did not commit the things I had accused him of. The plan was vain and it was futile, but I was right there. I hadn’t went through all that trouble for nothing.
He was either going to come to me, or I was going to go to him.